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Time out in the wrestlers protest

The national wrestling stars who have been protesting against BJP MP and Wrestling Federation of India President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh since the 7th of last month, moved away from from their protest site in Jantar Mantar in the capital city and reached Haridwar and were almost set to immerse the medals they had won for the country in the Ganga, when farmer leader Rakesh Tikait met with the wrestlers and convinced them not to immerse medals as they are part of the heritage of the nation and its people. He persuaded them to hold for five days during which some solution to their grievance could be hammered out. Wrestling stars Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik, Sangeeta Phogat, and Bajrang Punia were ready to throw their medals into the river. The protesting stars have stated that they are yielding to Rakesh's insistence for the time being, but their strike will will continue until Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh is arrested. At a different site, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived to inaugurate the new Parliament building on Sunday, protesters tried to march towards the venue but were intercepted by the police, who in the meantime pulled down the protest site at Jantar Mantar. The wrestlers, including women, were dragged along the street and arrested and kept in jail until evening. Meanwhile, the female police reached the spot only when the protestors insisted that the male policemen should not arrest them. After Sunday's events, the wrestlers garnered even more support. The United World Wrestling (UWW), the governing body for global amateur Wrestling had already paid attention to the issue and expressed its concern over the sexual allegations and had already issued warnings. They responded to Sunday's police action in even harsher language.

In January, when wrestlers protested at Jantar Mantar demanding action against Brij Bhushan, the administration had suspended the strike by appointing an inquiry committee - on the promise of doing the necessary to seek a report within a month. A six-member team, led by former women's boxer Mary Kom, conducted the investigation and submitted its report in early April, albeit belatedly. But its contents have not been disclosed. All that was known was that there were general misgivings in it. This has become a political issue. The main reason for that is the accused Brij Bhushan Singh. A six-time MP since 1999, this BJP parliamentarian is also known as a hero in political wrestling. He is the one who controls everything related to the organisation of wrestling. Brij Bhushan who was involved in the Ram Janmabhoomi movement also has a case against him in the Babri Masjid demolition issue. Due to political pressure and influence, the Delhi Police is reluctant to take action against him. The allegations against him are the incidents that took place from 2012 to 2022. These include financial irregularities, extortion and intimidation, but the most important one is sexual assault. Some of them allegedly took place in the bungalow of the Member of Parliament and in between tournaments at home and abroad. One of the victims was a minor girl. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court had directed that the child's name should not appear in the judicial records to protect privacy.

The players have demanded that Brij Bhushan be removed from his post and brought before the law and that the current federation be dissolved. The wrestlers say that they kept silent about the events that have taken place since 2012 only for fear of retaliation. The action against the sexual allegations has to be taken by the Delhi police which is under the Central BJP rule. But all that the Centre has done in this regard is to set up a commission of inquiry and now in the wake of the protests, the federation has postponed the elections and asked the Indian Olympic Association to appoint an ad hoc committee to run the day-to-day activities for 45 days. Brij Bhushan will no longer be eligible to contest for the federation as he has completed the maximum of three terms. In January, he said that he is ready to face any investigation and if the allegations are proven, he would hang himself. But he is not ready to resign, his reasoning being that then it would imply that he accepts the allegations. The central government, given to being loquacious about national pride, is protecting its politics without any moral considerations when it comes to the issue of the honour of young stars who have brought international fame to the country. Moreover, the government filed a case of attempting to cause riot against the protesting wrestlers who were demanding to have a case of sexual assault filed against Brij Bhushan. The central government should correct its course away from this fundamentally wrong approach, be seized of the seriousness of the matter and take action against Brij Bhushan, doing justice and make it known to the nation that justice is being done. After the five-day time-out, it is up to the central government and the party that leads it to decide whether the wrestlers will have to go to the ring again.

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TAGS:Wrestlers protestBrij Bhushan Sharan Singhsexual assualtDelhiPoliceSakshi MalikBajrang PuniaVinesh PhogatSangeeta PhogatBJP MPCentral GovernmentWrestling Federation of India-WFIIOA
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